Just a couple of months after Katrina I happily posted
that New Orleans was going to be the first major U.S. city to have free wireless access throughout the city. Earthlink started the process in the CBD and the Frenchquarter, and then expanded uptown, all neighborhoods that did not flood. The mayor thought that by November of 2006 the entire city, including the flooded neighborhoods, would have free wifi. Then by December they had suffered some setbacks
, mostly from hardball tactics from Bellsouth and Cox Cable who said this "free" service would steal their customers. I argued that the flooded neighborhoods needed wifi even more than the others, as at the time Bellsouth was estimating it would take more than a year to get phone service. There was also some controversy as the wifi transmitters would double as crime cameras. Earthlink hoped to finance the wifi by offering those who could access their signal two options: they could used the free speed (slightly faster than dialup), or pay to use a much faster speed. Today in the Times-Picayune in an article
by Pam Radtke Russell I read that Earthlink has had some financial problems, and they've pulled the plug on New Orleans, and my dream of free wifi is gone for now. Earthlink has said that the business model proved to be "unworkable." Other cities, such as Chicago and San Francisco are also reportedly cancelling earlier plans to provide free wireless access. Radtke Russell reports that there might be a glimmer of hope, as Earthlink contacted the city's technology director Anthony Jones last week to discuss an expansion, but they would need the city or another "entity" to be the "anchor tenant" to pay for the system. Earthlink, my city is broke. I can't imagine a company like Shell would take this on either, as they'd more likely listen to Bellsouth than me.